Saturday, November 20, 2010

1906 Book - Around the United States by Bicycle


This book describes the 1904-05 trip around the United States of two young fellows - nominally to win a wager. This sort of "sponsored" bicycle adventure began in the 1890s and I was surprised to find such a trip as late as 1904 - my reading (of other books about the period) suggests that the news media became skeptical about this sort of thing and it fell out of fashion before the end of the nineteenth century. (They did follow through and publish a book, which most of these travelers failed to do.)

The full book is available online here. (It is from the Library of Congress . . . )

The rather elaborate routing to minimize their travel but hit all the required states (and territories!).


From the introduction:
Clarence M. Darling and Claude C. Murphey, age 19 and 20 respectively, left Jackson, Michigan, on May 2, 1904, to make a trip by bicycle through every state and territory within the boundary lines of the United States proper, namely, forty-five states, four territories, and the District of Columbia. The trip was the result of a wager. Upon the success of the tour a purse of five thousand dollars would be won by the two contestants providing that they lived up to all the terms and stipulations of the wager. The conditions were that they were to start on this long journey penniless, while on the trip they were neither to beg, work, borrow, nor steal, all the expenses of the tour to be met by the profits resulting from the sale of an aluminum card-receiver or ashtray, a facsimile of which is given on one of the following pages.

Below, the "souvenir" they sold to raise money as they traveled.

One of the few illustrations to include one of their bikes, showing a location in Washington state.

The only photo of the authors and their bikes, at the finish. Or at least I assume the authors are in this photo - but which ones are they??

As is often the case in books reporting on trips taken by bicycle, little is said specifically bicycle-specific aspects of the travel, it is more a report of their encounters with people they met along the way and observations about places. They do not, for example, even report on their daily mileage achieved, which would seem closely connected to their winning the "wager" - but given the title of the book I suppose they figured readers would understood them to have won it, so no drama there.

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